Caught in the Net

If you’re like me, you’ve been both concerned and reading about net neutrality since the January 2014 court decision that stripped the FCC of its power to enforce network neutrality protections under the regulatory framework it was using. Does this mean the death of an open internet? According to some, Yes. But others argue that reports of the imminent death of the Internet’s freewheeling ways and utopian possibilities are wildly exaggerated.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has repeatedly insisted that the commission’s proposed rules for preserving “net neutrality” don’t necessarily allow for Internet “fast lanes.” These fast lanes, or paid prioritization, would allow Internet services providers like Comcast or Verizon to charge companies more for faster Internet connections directly to consumers. Ok, that’s good news.  And while “don’t necessarily allow” doesn’t mean the same thing as not allow–as in it will in no way be possible for companies to charge more for faster connections–there will be oversight that should protect consumers, right?

net_neutrality graphic

Well, maybe not. I’ve also read that the important thing to keep in mind about all this is that much of the discussion actually has little to do with consumers or broadband providers, but has everything to do with what the FCC can and cannot do to regulate the Internet by law. In other words, the issue isn’t fast lanes versus the open net; it is that the FCC is trying to increase its regulatory control of the Internet in the first place.

Because in the current proposal  the FCC assumes an increased ability to review ISP offerings on a “case-by-case basis” and kill any plan it doesn’t believe is “commercially reasonable,” many are concerned that any fast-moving innovation and adjustment to changing technology on the part of companies will be quashed and regulatory morass and long, drawn-out bureaucratic hassles will be de rigueur.

And so I remain confused. How about you

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